Where things line up well for USC

Steve Sarkisian has high expectations going into his first season at USC. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

As we count down 50 days until the start of the 2014 college football season, ESPN Insider Travis Haney is answering at least one big question a day until South Carolina and Texas A&M’s kickoff on Aug. 28.

Heisman contenders, breakout freshmen, conference winners -- it will all be covered as part of Insider’s Ultimate Season Preview.

Today’s questions: Will the new coaching staff’s familiarity give USC a fighting chance in the Pac-12 race? And how much better is Trojans QB Cody Kessler than he was a year ago?

UCLA is the favorite in the Pac-12 South, and USC’s players and first-year coach acknowledged this week that it’s only logical since the Bruins have won two in a row in the series.

But is there a false perception that the lingering scholarship handicaps could prevent USC from competing in 2014 for the division and maybe even the conference?

Those issues are a hindrance, sure, but they aren’t wholly preventive because of the program’s top-level talent -- and because of the newfound coaching stability.